Monday, April 11, 2011

Halfway between here and there

Sitting in the garden with my feet up on the chair and my favorite drink in hand (half lemonade, half beer), I watch the sunset, gazing at the trees and the swarming masses of gnats illuminated by the beams of sunlight. It looks as if the bugs are trapped within these narrow streams of light, but I know that it is only my perception, or rather lack thereof, that gives the appearance of isolated swarms. In reality they are all around.

The 11 year old version of myself is nudged awake by this image. I can see myself running through the grass, trying to catch fireflies in the long evenings of Missouri summers. My Grandmother is stretched out on her lawn chair doing a word cross puzzle and my Grandfather is marching about the garden with his precise step; his pant legs tucked neatly into his socks and a floppy canvas hat looking decidedly out of place on the head of an otherwise meticulously dressed Englishman.

My Grandmother has been dead for nearly 10 years. My Grandfather nearly 4. But my daily life is still wrapped up in the memories of our lives together.

I am going back to the Middle East in a matter of weeks. Though it's only for the summer, it's filled me up to the brim with emotions for which I cannot quite find the words.

So I sit on this wrought-iron chair watching the stray cats romp through the tall grass of an unruly garden. I breathe everything in deeply. The trees and their delicate star-shaped leaves. The honeysuckle plant that British guy just planted over the weekend; its vines have been pushed against the trellis. I sip my beer and try to wrap my head around the mixture of yearning, excitement and fear rushing through my veins causing an impossible churning in my heart. That conflicted mass of emotion that comes from a desire to go, but a reluctance to leave.

France has become my home. I feel mixed up in it, my whole life tangled up in its complexities, idiosyncrasies and simple beauty. Like being tangled in the sheets and wrapped up in the arms of a lover, not ready for sleep, but still reluctant to get up and disturb the cozy equilibrium of two people wrapped up in each other.

But the Middle East is where I came to terms with myself. Somewhere between Arabic and Hebrew; the checkpoints and the confusion; the simplicity of a starry night on a warm rooftop and the complexity of an enduring conflict...I uncovered elements of myself I never knew existed.

And they were good.

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